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Herts’ conservation heroes

PUBLISHED: 11:55 22 April 2014

Clearing reedbeds at Wilstone Reservoir near Tring

Clearing reedbeds at Wilstone Reservoir near Tring

Photographs © Copyright Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust volunteer and now staff member Ann Favell describes the wide opportunities for volunteering with the conservation charity and the rewards it gives

Boardwalk construction at Hilfield Park Reservoir, ElstreeBoardwalk construction at Hilfield Park Reservoir, Elstree

All across Hertfordshire there is a network of people who come together to volunteer their time. Quietly and diligently they go about their work, donning wellies and waders, hats and scarves, working at computers and helping at community events. This mini-movement is united to achieve one thing – help local wildlife, and without them Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust would be unable to protect as much of Hertfordshire’s natural heritage at it does.

Volunteers have been key to the success of the trust since its beginning in 1963. As the number of nature reserves grew countywide, so did the number of volunteers, as people who lived nearby wanted to get involved with them. Gradually, more people found out about the wide variety of work the trust does and this in turn led to a greater variety of opportunities for volunteers.

These could vary from water vole monitoring, welcome telephone calls to new members, butterfly surveying and nature reserve management to media work and engaging people near towns, woodlands, grasslands and rivers. We now have more than 300 people of all ages registered as volunteers with HMWT and together they contribute thousands of hours to our work each year.

Not only does local wildlife benefit from the work of these conservation heroes, but our volunteers also gain a lot from being involved. Andrew Harris, volunteer botanical surveyor says, ‘I volunteer for the trust as a local wildlife site surveyor. As part of a small team I do botanical surveys of some special sites in Hertfordshire such as old meadows and ancient woodlands. We share the tasks of plant recording, mapping the habitat and report writing.

Raking hay at Blaygrove Common, near SandonRaking hay at Blaygrove Common, near Sandon

‘I choose to give my time because the range of volunteer activities means there is always something I can do to make use of my interest in botany. I have also gained practical experience through contributing to the protection of my local environment. I find volunteering for the trust particularly rewarding because it gives the opportunity to participate in small groups of like-minded people. It is good to share a common purpose and have a lot of laughs while doing something positive for conservation in our locality. I have gained many good friends and received much encouragement from the trust. I also get the chance to visit fascinating places in Hertfordshire. With all the pressures on the environment, volunteering with the trust gives me the chance to do my little bit for the beautiful countryside in our county.’

Volunteering England has reported that giving time and skills in this way can bring a great sense of achievement while making a difference. Meeting other like-minded individuals and working as part of a team can bring huge social benefits and can also help people gain confidence and vital skills for their own work life.

This year Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust celebrates its 50th year. We grow stronger day by day as more volunteers lend a hand to local wildlife. We are looking to do much more work for nature in the future and welcome anyone who has a passion and enthusiasm for Hertfordshire’s wildlife and countryside to come along, volunteer and get involved.

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Helping out at Wild Stevenage Nature Trail Fun DayHelping out at Wild Stevenage Nature Trail Fun Day

To find out more about volunteering for Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust go to hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/volunteer where latest opportunities are listed. Alternatively, call Ann Favell on 01727 858901.

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